Hello everyone! My name is Zara and I am a second-year psychology student. Today I’ll be talking a little bit about sober socialising at University. I personally don’t drink, not even a drop, and never have. There’s no particular reason for my sobriety, I have never had any bad experiences with alcohol to deter drinking, and my family and friends growing up were great examples of moderate healthy drinking. I never felt the need or desire to drink, so I never did. I do understand that is quite a rare and niche example of a reason for sobriety since most driving factors include something about culture, religion, or whatever else it may be. Simply ‘not wanting to’, having never tried it, isn’t very common, every now and again I’ll get asked why and I’ll say I never have wanted to so never did. I might get an eyebrow raised, perhaps a puckered lip and nod, but contrary to what I was warned would happen, I get left alone with my glass of water. Maybe I am lucky that I’ve found my niche here at university, but in Exeter, it’s not the most uncommon to be sober. Being sober doesn’t set you apart as much as some may think, either. I am friends with some freshers who, during welcome week, went out clubbing lots together and did what they perhaps thought they ought to be doing. Now, in term 2, some still do go out every week, but some prefer to stay in, watching Love Island and baking cakes.

Dinner with friends

Being sober at uni isn’t as isolating as some may think. Lots of students who aren’t sober choose not to drink anyway or don’t even drink that often. Exeter has one of the highest sober student populations in the UK as well. Just yesterday I was having dinner with some friends and half of the house was sober by choice! As I said, maybe I am lucky that I found my niche, but I believe I’m not lucky, and instead I have watered the seed that grow the crop I like best, if you will. I engage in activities I enjoy, reach out to my friends’ lots, participate in multiple societies, and generally have a great network here at university.  I’m here to share how I make friends, socialise, and have fun at university. The main bits I’ll be focusing on are societies (I cannot recommend them enough!), how to have fun on nights in or out, and how to build friendships and friend groups that work for you. 


The first thing I’ll dive into is societies. While lots of societies have socials that include lots of drinking and partying, lots don’t. Most of the party-like societies are sports ones, and all will also do sober socials so you can get to know fellow members without the pressure of alcohol. Not to mention, in sports societies, you do go to training and games, so I wouldn’t worry about not ‘fitting in’ or ‘making friends’ as the nature of the society is inherently social, even without drinks. I am personally a part of a few societies, none of which have a particularly rampant drinking culture. Lots of people in the societies I attend don’t drink, and even if they do, it’s not to the point of intoxication. Societies are a fabulous way to get connected with people with like-minded interests and form a community in Exeter. 

Going out/staying in

The second thing I’ll touch on is going out, or staying in. Nights out seem to be mandatory at university, don’t they? Maybe for most people, but for lots, clubbing just isn’t very appealing. I assumed, coming into university, that every night was going to be hustle and bustle, people were going to be clubbing till sunrise, no rest for the wicked type of culture. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Whilst yes, there is a drinking culture and yes people do go clubbing, there is still a good percentage of people who don’t enjoy it and don’t go, and a lot of them do drink as well. What I mean to say is, that clubbing really isn’t as big of a thing as it seems to be before setting foot in university. In fact, there’s lots to do come sundown that doesn’t involve clubbing. This term I have very much enjoyed cooking meals with my friends and having nights in. I don’t often spend nights in my room alone, someone is always hosting something. Whether it be a society social, movie night, dinner out and then a walk or whatever it may be, there’s always something to do. Exeter has a more wholesome culture than most other universities I’ve heard of.

Watching a band at the ‘Cavern’ in Exeter


I personally am a devout extrovert and I try to see as many people as possible in the week. I have my core friends, but lots of stragglers on the outskirts of my friendship bubble too that I make an effort to go to coffee with every so often. that’s the third thing I want to talk about- making the effort to make friends. In school, you’ll get comfy and cosy with the routine of break-time hangouts, lunchtime chats, and after-school plans. A common meeting space that everyone frequents that is accessible. Unfortunately, in university, you will often have different lecture times than most people. Even within the same course, you may be in different modules, seminars or tutorials that run at different times. It is super important to make the effort to reach out to people that you want to get to know and spend time with. This week, I have arranged several coffee-catch-ups with people I rather enjoy the company of. It is really easy to sit in your room and wait for someone to knock, or invite you out, or say a time and a place. It’s harder to be the person to do the knocking, but it’s an important life skill nevertheless. Not to sound depressing or anything, but school life won’t come back and there never will be a time when we all get to convene at the exact same location without planning again. Now for the more hopeful tone, though; it is really rewarding and fulfilling to garner those friendships more proactively. What I mean is, that you can plan so many fun events with friends, anything you want at all. Just this week, I have heard of bouldering trips, cycle trips to the beach in Exmouth, day trips to Dartmoor, and all sorts. I keep a biscuit tin stocked for afternoon teas that I host sometimes. The effort is what counts in university. I have known many a fresher to sit in their rooms waiting for the university life of their dreams that they were promised. “best years of your life” they say. They absolutely can be, but you play a more active role in making it so! To bring it back to sober socialising, you can arrange to meet up with whoever, whenever, and you absolutely don’t need to drink to have a good time. Exeter is a community-based university, which makes all this a whole lot easier. 

Indoor picnics

The final thing I’ll touch on is to have fun, and let it flow! Don’t force yourself to do anything you don’t enjoy for the sake of making friends. If you like clubbing sober, go clubbing sober, and if you don’t, well, don’t! One key takeaway I hope to leave you with, is that sober socialising is the same as any other kind in university. These can be the best years of your life if you follow what you actually want to do and where you actually want to be! It’s impossible to truly enjoy yourself if you’re not doing what you enjoy. It sounds simple really, doesn’t it? But it’s ridiculously easy to lose sight and follow the crowd. I urge you to be brave, join societies you find interesting, reach out to people you want to see more of, make plans to do things you enjoy and above all, listen to your heart (as cheesy as it sounds) and do things that you enjoy. There aren’t any rules on how to have fun at university, and you absolutely don’t need to wake up in a bush an hour away from home to feel like you’ve made the most of your time at university.